"Holiness - without which no one shall see the Lord" - by Keith Petersen
In the Book of Genesis the Lord worked largely with individuals; however, as soon as He began to move in relation to “a people” (Israel) the first word that was spoken to Moses was, “Draw not nigh hither: loose thy sandals from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). Subsequently, the Lord said to Israel “ye shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6) and, a bit later, “ For I am Jehovah who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:45).
In Hebrews 12:14 it is written “Pursue peace with all, and holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord” and the Lord Himself said when here “Be ye therefore perfect [i.e., including holiness] as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48).
In the same way in which God took Israel out of Egypt He is in Christianity calling His people out of this world – Galatians 1:4 says “who gave himself for our sins, so that he should deliver us out of the present evil world.” The Lord said to the Pharisees in John 8 “Ye are of this world; I am not of this world” and in John 15 He followed this statement when speaking to the disciples by saying “If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on account of this the world hates you.”
If it is understood that God set Adam and Eve at the first into a world without sin and without death it is simple to recognize God’s primary thoughts. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden a great change has come in, and as a result God has been taking His people out of (morally, of course, at the present time; but, ultimately, to be literally with Christ in our heavenly home) this world.
In the tempting of the Lord by Satan in Matthew 4 it says that Satan led the Lord “to a very high mountain, and shews him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory, and says to him, All these things will I give thee if, falling down, thou wilt do me homage. Then says Jesus to him, Get thee away, Satan, for it is written, Thou shalt do homage to [the] Lord thy God, and him alone shalt thou serve.” This distinctly shows the nature of the world system in which we live as being under the power and influence of Satan (the great liar), and in like manner in John 16:11 the Lord calls Satan “the ruler of this world.” As the Lord was approaching the Cross He said, “ Now is [the] judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (John 12:31).
In 1 John 5:19 the Holy Spirit further records that “the whole world lies in the wicked one”, and all this foregoing language showing unmistakably God’s depiction of the nature of this world here as morally being – at the foundational level – in antagonism to and rejection of Himself the remaining question is: “How is a Christian according to Scripture to conduct himself or herself in the midst of such a departed world?”
Numbers 23:9 gives us the principle – “Lo, [it is] a people that shall dwell alone” and 2 Corinthians 6:14–18 fully shows us God’s principles as to our moral path here – culminating in the statement “Wherefore come out from the midst of them, and be separated, saith [the] Lord, and touch not [what is] unclean, and I will receive you; and I will be to you for a Father, and ye shall be to me for sons and daughters, saith [the] Lord Almighty.” We are to be separate morally from a world system of man’s fashioning so that we can truly be regarded as God’s sons.
The Bible further says that Christ is “holy, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26) and that “even as he is, we also are in this world” (1 John 4:17). These are profound statements – showing, as they do, that God is considering the Christian in the same moral light in which He considers Christ, and 2 Peter 1:3,4 so wonderfully says, “As his divine power has given to us all things which relate to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that has called us by glory and virtue, through which he has given to us the greatest and precious promises, that through these ye may become partakers of [the] divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” This phrase “partakers of the divine nature” highlights to us the infinite place into which we have been set through God’s great grace and love.
What is “godliness” as seen in the prior paragraph? It is being like God! God pronounces that this world is a “present evil world” and that the Christian – “made in the image of God” and now truly so through new birth and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit – is to move through this scene morally separate from a world system that rejected and crucified Christ.
It is imperative to understand that Christianity inherently is centered in the realm of the Spirit. It is entirely – in every moral consideration – separate from what is of man naturally. The Lord said, “God [is] a spirit; and they who worship him must worship [him] in spirit and truth” (John 4:24) and the apostle writes in Ephesians 2 that we were in our natural estate “afar off” and “without God and without hope in this world”; but, now “built together for a habitation of God in [the] Spirit.” Christianity is a spiritual system in which man's natural mind and will is to be precluded - "But [the] natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him; and he cannot know [them] because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14).
What, then, constitutes as shown in Scripture “the world”? It is anything built by and centered in man’s natural desires and predilections away from and independent of God. The Bible says “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4) and the translator’s note as to this is: `Sin is the absence of the principle of law or, in other words, of the control of God over the soul.’ Independency came in the Garden of Eden and is that which characterizes the nature of man.
The “world” involves all that is in it – governed by Satan (God, of course, is in ultimate control) - and designed to attract and separate man from God. Galatians 5 says “Walk in [the] Spirit, and ye shall no way fulfill flesh's lust” and then goes on to catalogue the “works of the flesh” as being “fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strifes, jealousies, angers, contentions, disputes, schools of opinion, envyings, murders, drunkennesses, revels, and things like these; as to which I tell you beforehand, even as I also have said before, that they who do such things shall not inherit God's kingdom.”
The word to us is “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust spoils, and where thieves dig through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust spoils, and where thieves do not dig through nor steal; for where thy treasure is, there will be also thy heart” (Matthew 6). Of course, we have our schooling, business, family matters and much else while here – God know these needs – the Lord said “your heavenly Father knows that ye have need of all these things. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
We cannot “go out of the world” (1 Corinthians 5:10); instead, as one has said, `The Christian is in this world but not of this world.’ The teaching as to all the foregoing is set out by God so that we can understand that, through the power of the Holy Spirit we are capacitated to be overcomers (“Ye are of God, children, and have overcome them, because greater is he that [is] in you than he that [is] in the world” – 1 John 4:4).
The place of the overcomer is given great presence in Scripture (see The Revelation chapters 2 and 3). The method of overcoming is through the guiding power of the Holy Spirit (“he shall guide you into all the truth – John 16:13) and the power for it is affection for Christ – “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
Man’s gross departure from God can readily be seen – hatreds, strife, jealousies, lusts, fornication and adultery, drunkenness, murder and “things like these.” As important to recognize is that Satan has spread a wide net and other elements such as contentions, disputes and idolatries are not only included but can be more subtle. For example, Satan has set up immense systems of idolatry in the world of music and the arts, the theatre, the sports world and much else – none could argue against this. We’re naturally attracted to such elements; yet, as this world has become an unclean place we are called upon – as quoted earlier – to “touch not what is unclean.” Can we be confirmed that the world is unclean? Peter writes in chapter 3 of his second epistle that “the present heavens and the earth by his word are laid up in store, kept for fire unto a day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men …. the heavens will pass away with a rushing noise, and [the] elements, burning with heat, shall be dissolved, and [the] earth and the works in it shall be burnt up …. according to his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness.”
This is a solemn word. May we be led by the Holy Spirit to fully understand the moral nature of this scene and to consciously walk separately from it. The joy of full and proper companionship with Christ is the reward of those who deny themselves and take up His Cross (Luke 9:23) in fidelity to all that it represents.